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Death Comes to Pemberley: A Jane Austen Murder Mystery

Are you ready for Elizabeth and Darcy to solve a murder mystery? Some of Jane Austen’s most cherished characters reappear in Masterpiece Mystery! Death Comes to Pemberley, premiering Sunday, 10/26, at 9pm. Guest blogger Amie Simon takes us through the highlights of this new two-part series, based on the book by British author P.D. James. 

I embrace any opportunity to revisit my favorite Jane Austen novel, Pride & Prejudice, whenever I can—so I was thrilled to learn that the BBC was adapting P.D. James’ novel, Death Comes to Pemberley! And lucky for us, KCTS 9 will be airing it over the next two Sunday nights, October 26 and November 2. Watch the preview (U.S. only).

Austen’s beloved characters 
The heart of Pride & Prejudice lies in the characters of the handsome Mr. Darcy (Matthew Rhys, The Americans) and the clever Miss Elizabeth Bennet (Anna Maxwell Martin, whom you might recognize as Susan from The Bletchley Circle!).  After overcoming many obstacles steeped in misunderstanding, these two soul mates finally fell into each other’s arms, and, we can hope, lived happily ever after. 

Death Comes to Pemberley takes place six years after Elizabeth becomes Mrs. Darcy, in the grand estate of Pemberley. Darcy’s sister Georgiana is also present; with the despicable George Wickham (Matthew Goode, The Good Wife) and his wife Lydia Wickham (Jenna Coleman, Doctor Who!), formerly Bennet, are important parts of the story as well. 

As the tale unfolds we also get to see Lizzie’s father, Mr. Bennet, her mother, Mrs. Bennet, and her sister Jane. Darcy’s cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam also figures prominently and of course no Pemberley story would be complete without an appearance by expert-advice-giver Lady Catherine de Bourgh! 

The mystery begins
Elizabeth and Darcy are happily living at their grand estate Pemberley with their son, little Fitzwilliam (apparently a popular name, as no less than four characters in this story share it), and Darcy’s sister, Georgiana. Mrs. Darcy is in the midst of making preparations for a grand ball when her sister Lydia arrives via a precariously racing carriage, screaming that her poor husband Wickham is dead! 

A search party is sent out into the woods around where Wickham is discovered, covered in blood with the dead body of his “friend,” Captain Denny! Oh dear. Just when you thought Darcy was free of Wickham, he resurfaces and poor Darcy has to fight to save his most-hated nemesis’s life, or risk losing both his family’s reputation (as Wickham is now technically his brother) and his grand estate. 

More scandalous details
In addition to the question of Wickham’s innocence, there are several other mysteries to solve, even one that involves a ghost. Rumor has it that a vengeful apparition appears in the woods as a sign of terrible things to come. Elizabeth even catches a glimpse of the spirit herself, shortly after Denny’s demise! What is the key to the sightings of this mysterious woman? 

A long-suppressed family secret of Mr. Darcy’s, a shocking revelation about Wickham’s history with Georgina, and a swirl of other secrets add to the murkiness of the whole affair—leaving Darcy and Elizabeth up against many obstacles as they race to discover the truth before it’s too late.  

True love’s struggle 
Any Austen fan knows the importance of a romance in peril, and Death Comes to Pemberley definitely delivers. Wickham’s appearance spurs memories of Elizabeth and Darcy’s first meeting and casts a shadow of doubt over their happy marriage. 

Meanwhile, Georgiana has found love with Barrister Henry Alveston, but ends up torn between her heart’s happiness and her duty to family when Colonel Fitzwilliam expresses his desire for an advantageous match.  

While the murder mystery twists and turns, so do the affairs of the heart. Will Elizabeth and Darcy be able to look past their former prejudices and still love each other? Will Georgiana marry for love, or walk down the aisle with the Colonel in order to secure the future of Pemberley? 

Without spoiling anything, I can confidently say that fans of Jane Austen will approve of all outcomes. The characters are also superbly true to their Pride & Prejudice behaviors, including the hysterics of Mrs. Bennet, who offers up one of my favorite lines (to Lydia shortly after she exclaims she knows Wickham is dead), “We must try and remain positive dear, and hope he at least died in a duel!” 

Watch a scene from part 1 of Death Comes to Pemberley (U.S. only):

Death Comes to Pemberley Part 1 premieres Sunday, 10/26, at 9pm and concludes the following Sunday, 11/2, at 9pm with Part 2.